Weigl, Zweizig return as national champs

NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl
NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, won the 2019 Speed Contest, held on Aug. 14, during the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo. His overall accuracy rate was 97.54 percent, or 87 errors total. This is Weigl’s third win in the Speed Contest. In second place overall for Speed was Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, of Nashville, Tenn., and in third was Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Belleville, Ill.

Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, of Baltimore, Md., is the new Realtime Contest champion. Zweizig previously won the contest in 2006 and 2015. Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Houston, Texas, earned second place overall in the competition, and Weigl placed third overall.

NCRA 2019 Realtime Contest Champion Doug Zweizig
NCRA 2019 Realtime Contest Champion Doug Zweizig

The Speed Contest consists of three legs: literary at 220 wpm, legal opinion at 230 wpm, and testimony at 280 wpm. Contestants have a total of 90 minutes per leg for transcription.

The Realtime Contest consists of two legs: literary at 200 wpm and testimony at 225 wpm. Contestants must turn in an ASCII file immediately following the end of dictation.

In both contests, contestants must receive 95 percent accuracy to qualify; accuracy also determines the winners.

Educator of the Year awarded

Margaret (Peg) Sokalski-Dorchack, RMR, a court reporting program director for MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill., was given the 2019 CASE Award of Excellence. The announcement was made at NCRA’s Convention & Expo being held in Denver, Colo., Aug. 15-18.

NCRA’s CASE (Council on Approved Student Education) Award of Excellence recognizes the important role student education plays in the court reporting profession and honors educators for their dedication and outstanding achievement and leadership. Recipients are nominated by an NCRA member.

Sokalski-Dorchack has been a member of NCRA for almost 40 years. She is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. After being honorably discharged, she began the court reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cuyahoga, Ohio, under the leadership of Dr. Angela Hergenröeder, the first recipient of NCRA’s outstanding educator award. 

Sokalski-Dorchack earned the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification while still in school and completed her associate’s degree. She worked as an official reporter in one of Ohio’s courts. Dr. Hergenröeder asked her to teach an evening class at Tri-C during her first year as a reporter, and it was clear that this was where Sokalski-Dorchack’s passion lay. She went back to school and finished her bachelor’s degree in technical education and earned her master’s degree in business education. While working as a reporter, she also earned her Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification.

Sokalski-Dorchack moved to the Chicago area with her family and taught at Triton College; Career Colleges of Chicago; and MacCormac College full-time, where she has spent a total of 22 years, the last being in her current position as the program director of the court reporting program. She has published Speed Advantage Q&A, two volumes of Q&A tests for speeds of 80 to 130 words per minute. She is currently collaborating with colleagues on an updated version of a theory text.

Sokalski-Dorchack is also a recipient of the Illinois Outstanding Educator Award awarded by the Illinois Court Reporters Association.

NCRF recognizes Mervin Vaughn with altruism award

NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaungh
NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaungh

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) presented the 2019 Santo J. Aurelio Award to Mervin E. Vaughn, RPR, from Runnels, Iowa. The announcement was made at a special Awards Luncheon held at NCRA’s Convention & Expo Aug. 15-18, in Denver, Colo.

The Aurelio Award is given to a working court reporter with more than 25 years of experience who has given back to the profession and to the court reporting community with no expectation of any reward. 

Vaughn is has worked as a freelance and an official court reporter and currently serves as president of Huney-Vaughn Court Reporters in Des Moines, Iowa. He completed graduated on 1965 from the American Institute of Business in Des Moines before serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968.

He has been a long-time supporter of NCRF and has served in numerous volunteer positions for NCRA at the national level. He is a lifetime retired member and holds the nationally recognized professional certification of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR). At the state level, his volunteer service to the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) spans more than 50 years.

He has also been a long-time advocate for young reporters entering the profession and is known for hosting student interns or recruiting working court reporters to attend marketing events for a local court reporting school. 

For his military service, Vaughn was awarded the U.S. Army Commendation Medal for “distinguishing themselves by exceptionally meritorious service in support of allied counterinsurgency operations in the Republic of Vietnam.”

His community involvement has included volunteering for a local non-profit that assist families with a child or an adult impacted by Downs Syndrome and has served for more than 20 years in various positions to support his local church.

His selflessness when giving back to others has clearly been recognized by such acts as having a scholarship established in his name, which support students entering a trade school. He has also received letters of recommendations from judges, attorneys, instructors, former students, friends, and family, for having this honor bestowed on him.

In the words of one of his children: “My dad has given his whole life to his career and strongly believes in helping others. From leaving his fiancée to go serve his country, to encouraging any student he counters, he has always put court reporting as his top priority. He has done so while rebuilding his company after a devastating fire and saying goodbye to his best friend and business partner. He’s the only person who encouraged me to pursue my CLVS and the reason we are planning our own VHP day, because he saw a need for our community.”

NCRA Elects 2019-2020 Officers at Annual Convention & Expo in Denver

The National Court Reporters Association announced that the following members have been elected and installed as 2019-2020 officers:

  • President: Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a court reporter and firm owner from Franklin, Tenn.
  • President-elect: Christine Phipps, RPR, a court reporter and firm owner from North Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Vice President: Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Secretary-Treasurer: Kristin Anderson, RPR, an official court reporter from San Antonio, Texas

In addition, two new members of NCRA’s Board of Directors were also installed to serve three-year terms during the event. They include: Lance Boardman, RDR, CRR, Cleveland, Ohio, and Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Acworth, Ga.

Also installed to serve a two-year term were Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, from Brentwood, Tenn., and Yolanda Walton, FAPR, RPR, from Norwalk, Ohio.

Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, from Fort Collins, Colo., was installed to serve a one-year term.

Returning directors include: Meredith A. Bonn, RPR, CRR, Webster, N.Y.; Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, from Shawnee, Kan.; Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, from Ottumwa, Iowa; and Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, from Springfield, Ohio, NCRA Immediate Past President. The officers were installed during the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo being held in Denver, Colo., Aug. 15-18.

Six amendments pass by vote of the membership

Six of the seven proposed NCRA Constitution & Bylaws amendments passed by a vote of the membership on Friday, Aug. 16, following the NCRA Annual Business Meeting, which was held in conjunction with the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo. Voting Members had the opportunity to vote during a 24-hour period following the Business Meeting. Amendment #4, which addressed succession, was withdrawn during the Annual Business Meeting.

Members were able to view a live stream of the event; a transcript was made available following the meeting. The total number of voters was 855 (7.6%) of 11,233 electors.

Amendment #1 would allow membership reinstatements to be either written or verbal requests. The amendment was voted in by 799 (94.9%) for to 43 (5.1%) against.

Amendment #2 addressed the requirements for reinstatement for Registered Member. The amendment was voted in by 776 (94.2%) for to 48 (5.8%) against.

Amendment #3 addressed how to handle the proration of dues. The amendment was voted in by 595 (90.4%) for to 63 (9.6%) against.

Amendment #5 was brought forward for vote because there was an inconsistency about the Nominating Committee Meeting. The amendment was voted in by 768 (98.1%) for to 15 (1.9%) against.

Amendment #6 asks membership to change the name of the National Committee of State Associations to the National Congress of State Associations. The amendment was voted in by 665 (88.4%) for to 87 (11.6%) against.

Amendment #7, which was proposed by a group of members in accordance with the Constitution & Bylaws, addresses the requirements on state associations. The amendment was voted in by 565 (73.5%) for to 204 (26.5%) against.

The full language of the amendments can be found on the NCRA website. The certified results can also be found on the NCRA website.

NCRA President addresses the membership on change

By Max Curry

Change is difficult, but some of our greatest opportunities come from change.

A big change in my life occurred the day I left home for Ole Miss, beginning my journey to become a court reporter. It took me three hours to leave because my mother would not stop crying. She told me how proud she was, that she was looking forward to seeing me graduate from college, that her baby was leaving home, and then she would hug me and start crying all over again. It was a vicious cycle.

After two and one-half hours, we made it to my car. After another 30 minutes of advice, love, hugs, and tears, my daddy grabbed my mother in a bear hug and said: “Son, just get in the car and go or you’re never going to make it to college.”

Once in the car, I looked back. While still holding my mother, my dad raised his arm, waved, and said, “Your mother and I love you, and I am so very proud of you, son.” It was one of the few times I saw tears in my daddy’s eyes.

I will admit I was a typical 17-year-old: I knew everything, and my parents knew nothing. I thought: “Thank God I’m getting away from these two dumb people and can finally live my own life!” It took me five years to realize they were the two smartest, most brilliant people I may ever know.

My parents greatly influenced the trajectory of my life. From them I learned to work smart but work hard, to strive for excellence, to serve others, and to pay it forward. When we give back, we leave our world better than we found it. We must care about the collective good as well! The most important values they instilled in me were a sense of community and service to others!

As I left for college, my life was changing; but my parents’ lives were changing too. I was the last to leave home. Suddenly they had to figure out how to do something they hadn’t done since she was 18 and he was 20 — live their lives together without kids and be Roy and Ruth again. My parents fell in love all over again.

Life is full of change, and change can be good.

But today we must consider the court reporting and captioning industries and what change means for our future. In the past three to four years, our industry has seen great change — particularly in the last year. Change that happens that fast can be scary and seem out of control — but it only seems that way, mainly because as a species we are hardwired to resist change, even to struggle against it.

Our industry is over 100 years young. We have survived and thrived because of that word: Change. As change happened, we have not run from it; we have embraced it and evolved. Our theories evolved from short vowels only to long and short vowels, making our writing more efficient with CAT systems. Then came realtime, and we could provide instantaneous feedback for clients. The first realtime systems were IT labor intensive. We now offer realtime output to iPads and other smart devices, removing the difficult IT process for us and for our consumers. Many reporters and captioners fear some of the changes in our industry, whether it is other methods of reporting or the business approaches of companies and how they integrate other methodologies. And, then, outside influences affect the industries.

While I recognize the dangers and challenges, every day I make the conscious decision to face them head on, to embrace the light, to have a positive outlook, and to work toward constructive solutions that yield results for our industry! I encourage you to do so as well, for darkness is an absence of light, but the truest darkness is the belief that the light will never return. Our light still shines brightly.

My commitment to you as NCRA President is to work tirelessly, to make my presidency count, to work with this Board and other industry leaders to find solutions to the great challenges we face! Some of the smartest people I know are on this Board or are involved in our industry through NCRA staff or other industry leaders affiliated with NCRA. We will find the solutions working together!

Some of these solutions are already in the queue: NCRA 2.0’s commitment to looking at all our processes to ensure we function intelligently and efficiently; the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program addresses our student shortage, and my goal to work with reporter volunteers and state association leaders to implement the program in all 50 states this year, putting us on a clear path to eliminating our reporter shortage in the next several years; as a second step, to engage a marketing firm, much as the nurses did in the 1980s, to update the public image of stenographers and help the public to fully understand what we do and the opportunities in a reporting or captioning career; and our commitment to transparency by opening all the doors and windows of NCRA, offering our Board meetings for members viewing via Zoom. And we are going to do so much more!

I want to thank StenoCAT for their collaboration with my predecessor, Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, and NCRA by redeveloping their steno app for the iPad. This allow us to economically have steno writer keyboards available so we can roll out our NCRA A to Z program without a shortage of machines being a hindrance. I also want to recognize the teams at Stenograph and ProCAT for providing student writers for the program as well. We are having remarkable success with the online program already thanks to these folks! Thank you, StenoCAT, Stenograph, and ProCAT — and your amazing support staffs! With our volunteers and our vendors working together, we are going to cure our shortage and profession image issues in short order.

Many people fear automatic speech recognition (ASR) and its key component, which is artificial intelligence (AI). It threatens our captioning siblings more than judicial reporting, but the threat is real to both components of our industry. However, while ASR is making advancements with technology, the reality is, so are we.

The technology we rely on has evolved over the years, and it continues to do so today. In the not-so-distant future (perhaps three to five years from now) our CAT systems will include advanced AI chips. Imagine with me for a moment. As a professional stenographer, you show up for court with your writer and laptop and write the proceedings, and advanced AI software in your CAT system will follow behind you. When you hit the period or question mark, AI goes to work. It compares the audio to the words you wrote. When it completes the review and verifies every word is as you wrote it or has made changes where it deems appropriate as verified to the audio, it will then go back and apply both hard-set English rules to the sentence and the more fluid and flexible court reporting English rules. By the time you have completed the next sentence, AI is ready to move on to that sentence and go to work.

At the conclusion of the session, perhaps all day in court with 300 pages, AI will have flagged maybe 30 or 40 things you need to verify. Within 10 to 15 minutes of the end of court, you could complete the transcript and be ready to send it out electronically.

Similarly, a captioner could soon use such advanced AI CAT software tools to provide near perfect captioning.

Imagine: In five years, we could see a world of highly efficient and accurate stenographic writing aided by AI tools providing near instantaneous, highly accurate products to our consumers and clients.

Now, with this system, how would stenographic reporters and captioners possibly be leveraged out of this industry by technology? I would argue the reverse is true: Advanced technology married with the high skillset of a professional stenographic reporter or captioner will make us even more essential in judicial reporting and captioning arenas, practically making ourselves an irreplaceable component.

While many people fear AI, I remind you it is a tool, no different than a hammer or a screwdriver … or a stenographic machine. It benefits and grows our industry, creating for us a brilliant future. Some may argue this is a pipe dream. But great change starts with great imagination and lofty goals. What I described is a technological change, the same change that got us where we are today!

Make no mistake: we are under attack and are being threatened from all directions. This organization, NCRA, is the only national organization ready to promote and protect the stenographic means of making a record or captioning, period. Is this organization perfect? No, it is not; it is made up of people, and as people, we are all flawed. But the NCRA 2.0 Board has worked effectively together this past eight months, will continue to do so this year, and will work to ensure this organization functions in a financially sensible and efficient manner, setting us up for nothing but success. I understand why some reporting and captioning members have left NCRA over the years and why other court reporters and captioners have declined joining. However, I state again, this Board is dedicated to making the necessary changes to bring this organization back to a pinnacle of stature, but we cannot do it without you. As the leader of our industry this next year, I ask every stenographic reporter and captioner to come home to NCRA and stand with us. You are needed! The best way to confront these threats is to stand together, unified in a common message and a common goal: Promoting and protecting the stenographic means of reporting and captioning as the gold standard! This is our mission!

It is never too early to join your state or national professional association. I encourage our students to become student members, to be engaged, to get involved in your future career now! Reporting and captioning are evolving and changing, leading to remarkable opportunities. I am committed to court reporting and captioning’s future. I believe our future is nothing but bright, and the better days lie ahead! I am excited and honored to be your President and to be part of the change that is NCRA 2.0, and I look forward to working with each of you as we make this journey together!

Max Curry, RPR, CRI, is NCRA’s President. He can be reached at president@ncra.org. This is an abridged version of NCRA’s 2019-2020 President’s speech as given at the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo.

You can register on-site for the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo

You can register on-site for the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo taking place Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo.

Catch the excitement of this year’s Convention & Expo with highlights that include the Premier Session with keynote speaker Erin Brockovich, nationally recognized consumer advocate, environmental advocate and inspiration for the Academy Award-winning film.

On-site registration hours:
Thursday, Aug. 15 from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 16 from 6:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, Aug 17 from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The all-inclusive schedule is sure to appeal to anyone in the court reporting, captioning, and legal video professions, as well as related educational arena.

Dozens of vendors will showcase the latest in new products and services specifically for the court reporting, captioning, and legal video professions, including software, equipment, support services, new products, and more.

Convention highlights include such ticketed networking opportunities as the Opening Reception, the Awards Luncheon, and the Member Recognition Gala. Throughout the Convention attendees can earn up to 1.175 CEUs.

And be sure to stop by the National Court Reporters Foundation booth to enter a raffle to win a Luminex steno machine.

For more information about NCRA’s 2019 Convention & Expo or to see the schedule, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

Watch for information about voting

On Thursday, Aug. 15, all eligible voting NCRA members will have the ability to vote online for the proposed Constitution & Bylaws amendments.
The online vote will start within two hours of the end of the Annual Business Meeting and will be open for 24 hours. The Annual Business Meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. MT (10:30 ET).When voting begins, an email will be sent to all eligible voting members for whom NCRA has a valid address. Members will be sent a link to a secure voting website. The email gives detailed instructions on how to log in to the system to cast a vote.
Members can vote on their phones, tablets, or computers.

Start your new career path as a court reporter

On July 18, Fox Channel 2, St. Louis, Mo., aired an interview with NCRA members Debbie Walters, the CEO of PohlmanUSA, and court reporter Angela Taylor, RPR, about the need for more court reporters and NCRA’s A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand.

Watch here.

Purpose of the bylaw change for the National Congress of State Associations

At the annual business meeting during the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, one of the proposed bylaw changes is being put forward by NCSA (National Committee of State Associations). The proposal will change the name of NCSA to the National Congress of State Associations and includes other bylaw changes affecting NCSA’s structure, changing it back to more of a legislative function within NCRA’s organizational structure, acting as a resolution-making body, forwarding said resolutions to the NCRA Board of Directors for review and/or vote on the issues brought forth.  As well, the Congress will serve as a potential proving ground for identification and development of future NCRA leaders and Board members based on demonstration of leadership ability and statesmanship.

The mission of the Congress will be to act as ambassadors from each state association affiliate back to NCRA on behalf of the court reporting and captioning communities and provide a forum for state leaders to exchange information on various issues and points of view involving the Association and the profession.  The overall hope for the new Congress will be to act as a partner with the Board, however, with all state affiliate delegate leaders working together as 50 state associations on issues facing our industry. They will develop ideas, solutions, and paths forward to be advanced to the Board with suggested changes and the thought process behind how those recommendations were reached, with the ultimate decision still resting with the NCRA Board of Directors. 

The Congress will provide a unique voice working in conjunction with the NCRA Board of Directors… working as a team developing our future together!